Coming soon to Globe Life Park is more, much more, of the chant made famous in the 2011 postseason.
Nap-o-li. Nap-o-li. Nap-o-li.
The Texas Rangers are locked into divisional play, with all but one of their remaining opponents from the American League West. Those West clubs, all four of them, aren’t short on left-handed starting pitchers.
So, Napoli won’t be short on games played the rest of the season, or at least not as short as he had been to end August and to start September.
The right-handed-hitting slugger has feasted on lefties throughout his career, and he was in the Rangers’ lineup Wednesday in a late game against Seattle lefty Vidal Nuno.
This is the precise reason the Rangers acquired him last month, to combat lefties, and with a postseason berth on the line, the Rangers are going to use him.
“I look forward to it, especially in this time of year,” Napoli said. “It’s somewhere I’ve been before, and I understand the situation. It’s something I definitely look forward to and something I embrace. It’s a fun time of the year to be able to compete and play for something.”
The Rangers, who entered Wednesday only a game behind the Houston Astros in the AL West, face right-handed ace Felix Hernandez on Thursday to close out a four-game series at Safeco Field, and Oakland is scheduled to start righty Jesse Chavez to open a three-game weekend series.
But the A’s have lefties listed for Saturday and Sunday, and Houston will start Scott Kazmir on Monday and Dallas Keuchel on Wednesday. Seattle could start two lefties next weekend if the Mariners don’t use an off day to tinker with their rotation.
.708 Entering Wednesday, Mike Napoli’s slugging percentage against lefties in 24 at-bats since joining the Rangers
During the road trip Sept. 21-27 to Oakland and Houston, the Rangers could see four more lefties in six games. Even Detroit, the last nondivisional foe, could start a lefty Sept. 28-30, and the Los Angeles Angels have two lefties who could pitch in the season-ending series Oct. 1-4.
Nap-o-li. Nap-o-li. Nap-o-li.
“I still feel pretty good for not playing every day,” he said. “It’s nice to get back-to-back days. You’re able to make an in-game adjustment off a starter. When you get to pinch-hit, you’ve got that one at-bat and it’s usually in a key situation and you try to make the best of that at-bat.”
The numbers continue to show that Napoli is a force against lefties, even in a down season for him.
A .253 career hitter, Napoli has hit .277 against lefties with a .388 on-base percentage and a .524 slugging percentage.
I look forward to it, especially in this time of year. It’s something I definitely look forward to and something I embrace. It’s a fun time of the year to be able to compete and play for something.
Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli
Though posting only a .207/.307/.386 overall slash line this season, against lefties Napoli is at .267/.376/.542.
Since joining the Rangers, Napoli has an overall slash of .314/.388/.514 and an eye-popping .417/.500/.708 against lefties.
Nap-o-li indeed. And he’s doing that despite not being a lineup regular for the first time in four seasons.
“It’s been tougher, but I’ve been finding ways to try to stay fresh and just finding my routine every day,” said Napoli, who collected three hits Monday against Mariners lefty Roenis Elias. “It’s tough when we go through a long stretch of righties, but I’m starting to find a way to be ready in the late innings and when I get a start to be able to do something when I’m in there.”
On games when a right-hander starts, Napoli prepares to pinch-hit by hitting off a pitching machine early in the game and again later in the game. He hasn’t had much success to date, but the extra cuts in the cage have helped him stay sharp and maintain swing tweaks he made while still in Boston.
Entering Wednesday, Napoli was batting .295 in his past 32 games. Eight of those came with the Red Sox.
More games with the Rangers are coming as they enter a stretch heavy with lefties.
“It’s tough when you’ve been an everyday guy to sit and platoon to get rolling,” manager Jeff Banister said. “But he’s battling in his at-bats. He continues to work hard at it. We need for him, when he does get opportunities against these left-handers, that he can get in there and have some competitive at-bats. He has. He’s going to get some opportunities.”